John Godber’s new play The Debt Collectors is a grim look at life today through the eyes of two debt collectors, Spud and Loz, two actors who have fallen on hard times as the parts dried up, forcing them into the bleak, all too real world where people don’t get up again after they have been shot. They have ended up doing a debt clearance in the theatre where their final production together (Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter appropriately enough) was put on. This sets Loz thinking about how their lives have turned out and the structure of the play reflects this, taking us back in time through his eyes as he shows us how they have come to be where they are. He has deeply hidden resentment to come to terms with and a question which he desperately needs to ask and in the gripping final scene we see him reach the point where he is ready to release his anger and let rip before moving forward.
Rob Hudson as Spud and William Ilkley as Loz both give heartfelt and truthful performances, creating two believable men who are very different characters but share a close bond built over many years. They are also asked to fill in the world in which the debt collectors operate by playing some of the debtors and they do this with great skill, providing some moments of light relief alongside the tension. They are both experienced past members of John Godber’s Hull company and they understand his naturalistic choppy dialogue very well, keeping the pace moving and making the structure clear as well as finding depth in their characters. Given the fact that he was directing his own work with two actors that he knew well you would expect Godber’s direction to be seamless and it is. He knows exactly what he is doing.
The Debt Collectors is the first production of the new John Godber Company in collaboration with the theatre Royal Wakefield. Leaving Hull Truck, the theatre where he was artistic director for 26 years and which he took from bankruptcy to a new home in a 15 million theatre in 2010 is a huge new challenge. Wakefield, his home ground, is a perfect setting for a new phase in his work and if The Debt Collectors proves typical it looks like it may be very interesting, a new vision in a somewhat darker vein. I am looking forward to seeing how it all works out.